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In Theaters: ‘The Sessions’ Hopes ‘Nobody Walks’ Over To ‘Holy Motors,’ While ‘Alex Cross’ Is A Whole New Kind Of ‘Paranormal Activity’

In Theaters: 'The Sessions' Hopes 'Nobody Walks' Over To 'Holy Motors,' While 'Alex Cross' Is A Whole New Kind Of 'Paranormal Activity'

First off: big thanks to Katie for taking over last week! In that spirit of camaraderie, we suggest you round up a few friends and head out to the multiplex (or art house; we’re not picky). You’re in for a round of scares, laughs, tears, and karate chops to the face. Also, Tyler Perry appears on screen in rare form as a man and someone finally uncovers the mystery of Sasquatch. So very, very much to look forward to!

Madea doesn’t go to jail in this weekend’s “Alex Cross” from Rob Cohen. Tyler Perry plays the titular Detroit police officer, a law enforcer so gifted with the powers of deduction (thanks psychology B.A.!) that the FBI comes a-knockin’. But first things first: there’s a crazed serial killer (Matthew Fox) that needs catching in Motor City so, since no case has ever been left unsolved, Cross, along with partner Tommy (Edward Burns) and Detective Monica Ashe (Rachel Nichols), has at it. Our review says, “this is like action movie finger paint – big smears of emotion and activity without proper context or shading,” and admits the film “gets dragged back down to procedural clichés and eye-rolling sequences of dudes walking around crime scenes that we’ve seen about a million times before (all better).” Metacritic: 33 Rotten Tomatoes: 11%

If it ain’t broke: “Paranormal Activity 4” reinstates its franchise’s special brand of found footage horror show tactics in theaters this weekend. Dually helmed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, retaining their roles from the third installment, this episode’s ingenuity extends to the employment of a laptop webcam to record the eerie goings-on. When his mom is mysteriously injured, creepy neighbor Robbie (Brady Allen) moves in with Alex (Kathryn Newton), Wyatt (Aiden Lovekamp, who wins for most ironically named horror movie actor), and their parents. Soon, weird and unexplainable things begin happening, so Alex’s (presumably tech-savvy) boyfriend wires the family’s computers to record surveillance footage. Because our heroes have done something that was both smart and reasonable, the invisible demons realize it’s time to go full-throttle, wreaking havoc on everyone in the house, but manage to avoid damaging anything made by Apple. Our review says, “the charm has faded, the invention become passé and easily replicated, with the film now coming across as toothless and not-at-all scary. ‘Paranormal Activity 4’ feels like the violent discovery that the emperor has no clothes; perhaps he didn’t have any from the beginning.” MC: 42 RT: 32%

A man is determined to explore his sexuality despite physical limitations (not the ones you’re thinking of) in the Ben Lewin-written and -directed The Sessions,” based on the true story of Mark O’Brien. John Hawkes plays O’Brien, a poet and journalist who at an early age was stricken with polio that left him paralyzed. Doubtful that he’ll develop any romantic relationships and concerned about his lack of experience, O’Brien decides to hire a sex surrogate after securing the approval of his priest and confidante (William H. Macy). Enter Cheryl Cohen Greene (Helen Hunt), a therapist who promises to work with O’Brien on both physical and emotional levels, but only for six sessions; after that, they’re done-zo. Well, we’ll see. Our review says, “the fact of the matter is that ‘The Sessions’ is at best talky and static,” but admits, “it does look, with real intelligence and humanity, at the way sex can, and must, be part of a life lived independently, and is less a cause for shame than a way to explore who we are.” MC: 79 RT: 96%

Family melodrama “Nobody Walks,” directed by Ry Russo-Young and co-written by Young and Lena Dunham, teems with the tensions of inappropriate sexual fantasy. New Yorker Martine (Olivia Thirlby) is crashing with LA couple Julie (Rosemary DeWitt) and Peter (John Krasinski) and their two kids while she makes a movie. Things seem pretty kosher until the sparks fly between Martine and Peter and therapist Julie finds herself headlining in the fantasies of a patient (Justin Kirk), while daughter Kolt’s (India Ennenga) tutoring sessions with an older man heat up quickly too. Nothing like an outsider to spice up a suburban paradise, huh? Dylan McDermott and Rhys Wakefield also co-star. Our review says, “full of humor and humanity, ‘Nobody Walks’ is an emotionally complex, acutely observed and sensual film and in this writer’s opinion, one of the best at the [Sundance Film] festival.” MC: 54 RT: 38%

Roundhouse kicks fly, special effects pop, and melodrama abounds in Stephen Fung’s “Tai Chi Zero,” the first blockbuster installment of an expected trilogy from the Chinese director. Lu Chuan (Yuan Xiaochao) has a bodily growth that, when touched, both turns him into a martial arts master and shortens his life a bit. Talk about a gift and a curse. He hopes to find a cure in a small village famous for its kung-fu and, by way of dogged perseverance and a little help from a local (Tony Leung Ka-Fai), works to convince the isolationist townspeople to help him. Our review lauds the production design and cinematography and concludes, “it’s a great watch, and, for all its silliness…the film is a genuine pleasure to look at most of the time. It won’t linger in the mind longer than it takes for the credits to roll, but it’s a lot of fun while it lasts, and we’re genuinely looking forward to part 2 at this point.” MC: 56 RT: 47%

Digital activism is explored in “We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists,” from director Brian Knappenberger. The documentary delves into the roots of a hacker collective known as Anonymous, which began by using the Internet to protest and attack high profile individuals that limited free speech. Hal Turner, for example. But you can’t keep a good anarchist tied down, and it wasn’t long before a sect broke off that was more interested in challenging the boundaries of hacking than making political statements. Our capsule review from Fantasia Film Festival notes, “as fascinating, thorough and informative as ‘We Are Legion’ is, the documentary’s blind allegiance to its subjects blocks the kind of necessary discourse about the short-term and long-term effects of hacktavism — both positive and negative — will have.” MC: 65 RT: 89%

Katie Dellamaggiore’s documentary “Brooklyn Castle” follows five chess-playing students at a New York middle school that is known for producing some of the most talented young competition in recent years. With a population that mostly hails from lower income households, the school’s chess club offers its members unique and sometimes life-changing opportunities. It helps them cope with learning disabilities and troubles at home or with friends, provides them with an undeniable sense of confidence, and mounts their maturity. The importance of the extracurricular group becomes increasingly clear in the student and teachers’ efforts to keep it active when it’s threatened by funding cuts. Our review says the film “is an ultimately engaging and moving testament to the perseverance and determination to succeed, not only for the players in the film who are making their way from middle school to high school and eventually adult life, but also for the parents trying to fulfill the American Dream and teachers with a passionate belief in education.” MC: 72 RT: 100%

Oh thank heavens: more found footage! An attempt to create a major TV series that demyths the Bigfoot legend takes a turn for the worse (the very worse) in Corey Grant’s “Bigfoot: The Lost Coast Tapes.” Sean (Drew Rausch), Darryl (Rich McDonald), Robyn (Ashley Wood), and Kevin (Noah Weisberg) make up the crew, and venture into California’s Lost Coast to meet up with Drybeck (Frank Ashmore), a hunter who claims he’s caught the elusive monster. First night out: invisible forces terrify everyone by destroying the forest around them. Day following: Drybeck peaces out. So, invalidating the hoax might be the right track… anyone got a back-up plan? Our review says the film “is, for most of its running time at least, a nifty little horror movie,” but cites the last act as problematic, concluding, “there’s some extra spookiness in the movie’s last few minutes, and a shocking bit of violence that makes the whole thing more dark and disturbing, but it’s too little, too late. All the atmospheric eeriness in the world doesn’t make up for the fact that this movie has little-to-no actual follow-through.” MC: n/a RT: no score yet

Leos Carax constructs an otherworldly, sensual, self-reflexive dialogue in his film “Holy Motors,” which opened Wednesday. Monsieur Oscar (Denis Levant) spends each evening being driven around in a limousine that’s filled with costumes, masks, makeup, and props. He uses the vehicle as a changing room, shifting between various characters – a homeless woman, a suburban father, an assassin, a corporate bigwig – each new persona assigned by his mysterious driver, who, in turn, gets them from an unnamed higher power. As the night wears on, even the limo’s interior begins to shift its trappings, and the scenarios gain outlandishness and intrigue. Eva Mendes and Kylie Minogue co-star. Our review says, ” ‘Holy Motors’ is alive, bristling with emotion, mischief and calamity. You don’t watch the film, it merely happens.” MC: 89 RT: 93%

Also opening this weekend:
Carrie Preston‘s “That’s What She Said” sees three women – one a cynic, one a romantic, one a hot mess – on a series of misadventures in New York City. Friendship! Tough love! Someone pukes in a cab! MC: 24 RT: 0%

The Flat,” in which director Arnon Goldfinger documents the process of cleaning out his recently deceased grandmother’s apartment in Tel Aviv, and his subsequent discovery of a complex history that charts a family’s reconstruction in the aftermath of the Second World War. MC: 82 RT: 71%

A lovelorn boy and a misunderstood girl fall in love (and get it on) for “The First Time” in Jon Kasdan‘s story of the angsty and optimistic world of teenage romance. MC: 57 RT: 56%

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